BAGHDAD, March 13 -- Two American security contractors were killed and a third was wounded in a roadside bombing south of the Iraqi capital on Saturday, and at least 14 Iraqis were killed in several weekend attacks across the country.
The three contractors were working for Blackwater Security Consulting, a North Carolina-based contracting firm that provides security for U.S. State Department officials in Iraq. They were attacked on the main road to Hilla, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, U.S. Embassy spokesman Robert Callahan said. Two Iraqis were also killed in the bombing.
Separately, a U.S. soldier was gunned down by small-arms fire in the northern city of Mosul, the U.S. command said Sunday. U.S. and Iraqi troops killed five insurgents in street fighting there. A woman and two children also were killed in a U.S. helicopter gunship attack, according to the Jumhuri Teaching Hospital in Mosul.
In Sharqat, 160 miles northwest of Baghdad, a suicide bomber detonated his vehicle Saturday outside the house of the city's chief of special police forces, killing four people and injuring several others, police Col. Jassim Jubouri said.
The State Department said in a statement that it was "deeply saddened" by the casualties among the Blackwater contractors.
"These men were assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Iraq to protect American diplomats. They played a vital role in our mission to bring democracy, and opportunity to the people of Iraq," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
The Blackwater employees were in the last vehicle of a four-vehicle convoy traveling to Hilla from Baghdad, Callahan said. The road they were on traverses an area south of the capital known as the "triangle of death" because of the frequency of insurgent attacks.
Blackwater said the contractors, who were not identified, were attacked on the highway just southeast of the Baghdad airport. The company said the injuries sustained by the wounded employee were not life-threatening.
In March 2004, four Blackwater employees were killed in the turbulent city of Fallujah, and two of the corpses were hung from a bridge, triggering a bloody three-week siege by U.S. Marines.